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Preventing Terrorists from Acquiring Weapons - Briefing and Resolution*

Tomorrow (2 August), the Council will hold a briefing on “threats to international peace and security: Preventing terrorists from acquiring weapons”. The briefers are expected to be Deputy Director of the United Nations Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) Weixiong Chen, UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Executive Director Yury Fedotov via video teleconference, Secretary General of the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) Jürgen Stock, and a representative of the UN Office on Counter-Terrorism. They will speak to their respective efforts in preventing terrorists from acquiring arms.

During the meeting, the Council will adopt a resolution on preventing terrorists from acquiring weapons, which focuses on preventing the flow of small arms and light weapons to terrorists and the obligations of member states in this regard.

The text was negotiated over several meetings in recent weeks. The negotiations were not easy. Some Council members maintained that the language on small arms and illicit trade was too broad, and there were concerns that the draft’s references to counter-terrorism, disarmament and the ISIL (Da’esh) & Al-Qaida sanctions regime could open the door to reinterpretation of previous Council outcomes addressing these issues. However, other members felt that the broad approach was warranted, as past Council resolutions—such as resolution 1373—have defined the scope of issues relating to counter-terrorism with expansive language. The final version represents a series of compromises designed to balance these different perspectives in a way acceptable to all members, although there may still be a possibility of a non-unanimous adoption.

One difficult issue was regarding Russia’s call for a trade embargo to be placed on ISIL-controlled territory as a means of restricting the group’s ability to generate revenue. This was the position taken by Russia during the negotiations on resolution 2368 of 20 July, renewing and updating the 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) & Al-Qaida sanctions regime, a position opposed by several Council members. The final text contains similar language to that of resolution 2368, urging all states, including states where ISIL is present, to prevent any trade with ISIL and associated individuals and entities.

Another related proposal that surfaced during the negotiations was a Russian call on states to prevent the transfer of small arms to non-state actors. A similar proposal was made during the negotiations on resolution 2220 of 22 May 2015 on small arms. China, Russia and then-Council members Angola, Chad, Nigeria and Venezuela abstained in their vote on that resolution due to the absence of an explicit reference to “non-state actors” in the resolution’s provisions regarding the need to prevent the transfer of small arms to armed groups. As before, this proposal was not accepted by several states that find it overly broad, and it is not included in the final text.

A further controversial issue that arose during the negotiations related to resolution 2220. Resolution 2220 urges states to consider ratifying or acceding to the Arms Trade Treaty of 2 April 2013. It also notes that improving the implementation of Council-mandated arms embargoes and mandating UN peacekeeping operations to provide capacity-building related to small arms may contribute to a more effective implementation of the treaty by state parties. The issue remains a contentious one as several Council members are not parties to the treaty (Bolivia, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Russia and the US). A proposal reiterating the language of resolution 2220 was opposed by several Council members during the negotiations, and the final text simply calls upon all states to consider becoming party to the related international and regional instruments, without specification.

The draft resolution uses agreed language to reiterate the obligations of member states to implement relevant Council resolutions. For example, it reaffirms the Council’s decision in resolution 1373 (2001) that all states shall refrain from providing any form of support, active or passive, to entities or persons involved in terrorist acts, including by eliminating the supply of weapons to terrorists. The draft further stresses the importance of full and effective implementation of the relevant resolutions and appropriately addressing issues related to the lack thereof.

The draft text also directs the Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC), with the support of the CTED, to continue, within their respective mandates, to examine member states’ efforts to eliminate the supply of weapons to terrorists, with the aim of identifying good practices, gaps and vulnerabilities in this field. It further directs the 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) & Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee and the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team to continue to focus, including in their reports and updates, on the threat of supplying weapons to ISIL and associated individuals and entities.

On 21 July, CTED and INTERPOL signed an agreement formalising the cooperation between the two bodies that is aimed at leveraging expertise and optimising resources to avoid duplication of counter-terrorism efforts. In addition to supporting the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions on counter-terrorism, especially in law enforcement cooperation and border security, the two organisations will also develop a strategic joint action plan. Chen and Stock will most likely address this commitment in their briefings.

*Post-Script: On 2 August, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2370, focused on preventing terrorists from acquiring weapons.

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